Sensational 61 shows Harrington is coming around

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March 15, 2012
Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM

PALM HARBOR, Fla. -- According to Padraig Harrington, you can't believe what every professional golfer says.

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At least when it comes to the number of holes-in-one they have. Asked that very question after he made one during the pro-am here earlier this week, Harington said he he'd had 10 or maybe even 12 in his career.

More like six.

"And the fact that I can't remember the clubs and the shots and everything about them suggests that there really isn't a seventh one," Harrington said. "I just assumed I'd had more."

What you can believe is that Harrington is finally starting to come out of the coma he's been in on the golf course the last few years.

How else do you explain the course-record 10-under 61 he shot in Thursday's opening round of the Transitions Championship?

Or a tie for seventh last month at Pebble Beach?

Or the tie for 10th at the Volvo Golf Champions on the European Tour in January?

The point is even though Harrington ripped up his swing after winning three majors in two years -- the last of which was also his last victory on the PGA TOUR at the 2008 PGA Championship -- his game was never quite as bad as it seemed. At least in Harrington's mind, which can be a complex but insightful place.

"It's not like I was going to win two a year after that," Harrington noted. "I may go on and win more majors, but if you look at the likes of, say, [Nick] Faldo who, has won the most majors of any European, six, he didn't win them over a space of two or three years."

Of course it's been four years since Harrington has won anything on the PGA TOUR (the 2008 PGA Championship), so the clock was ticking.

He eventually got fed up, fired his coach, hired a new one and has even started working with mental guru Dave Alred. He's the guy who helped Luke Donald get to No. 1 in the world and win both money lists a year ago.

It seems to be working.

"I felt I've played better than I've performed for the last 18 months," Harrington said. "But I'm playing better again now."

Thursday, Harrington made 10 birdies and no bogeys and had 14 one-putts. It doesn't get much better than that.

Well, almost.

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At 7 under through 11 holes, Harrington started thinking about golf's magic number. But he missed a 6-footer for birdie on the par-5 12th and that was the end of his chase for a 59.

"I'd love to tell you I was so good that bad thoughts didn't get into my head, but unfortunately they do," Harrington admitted. "It cost me there."

What's cost Harrington more than anything since 2008 was trying to explain why he decided to change his swing.

To those following him, it didn't make sense. To Harrington, it didn't matter.

Even when the scores are high, there are no low points being a professional golfer, Harrington says.

Not when 20-year-old Special Olympics golf champion Tyler Whitehurst is your pro-am partner.

And not when your wife's cousin was paralyzed in a car accident and you're auctioning the shirt of your back, among other things, to raise money for a trust, as Harrington is the next three weeks (see more at PadraigHarrington.com).

In other words, there are naturally more important things than golf. And like life, golf is not a game of perfect, especially when you're trying to work your way back from the game's abyss.

"That's probably the hardest part is you've been asked questions that you don't have the answer to," Harrington said. "You try and explain it, and maybe explaining it digs you into a deeper hole that you're still trying to explain your way out."

Harrington seems to be out of that hole now. That much you can believe.

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